Call of Duty: World at War - WII - Preview

When you think about Treyarch’s forays into the Call of Duty franchise, one has to be impressed with the work done in such a short time frame. The Call of Duty titles Treyarch developed for Activision had a development time of nine months. So what would happen if the company had substantially more time – like, say, two years?

Get ready, because Call of Duty: World at War is the answer to that. What Treyarch is bringing to the franchise is something new, deep, gritty, dark, and thoroughly entertaining in an edge-of-your-seat way.

Treyarch and Activision showed off the title during a media event in Santa Monica on June 11. Demonstrated on the 360 platform (though the game will be available on the PC, PS3 and Wii), World at War marks the first time the Call of Duty franchise has gone into the Pacific Theatre, offering an infantry experience against the Japanese Imperial Army. This proved to be a tremendous undertaking considering that the Japanese Army operated under the code of the Bushido, essentially meaning that surrender was not an option and the Japanese would do anything to win. Infiltration and ambushes were part of the tactics used and the dev team took that into consideration, creating a suspenseful title.

Mark Lamia, the Treyarch studio head, said the marching orders, in tackling the title, were to “make the best damn game you can – don’t hold back.” Interviews with soldiers who fought in the Pacific were extensive and lead to the realization that the team, “couldn’t make the same old story in a jungle environment.”

“The situation this time with this game is an opportunity,” Lamia said, “a real opportunity for these guys to make the best game of their lives.”
The team has three factors working in their favor, according to Lamia – they had two years to make the game, were making a next-generation game (not a game that also would release on platforms like the PS2), and had a “fantastic” engine to work with, the CoD 4 engine.

Graphically, the game is outstanding. That much is apparent from the moment the dev team showed one of the levels involving a Marine who was a prisoner of the Japanese. After seeing a fellow P.O.W. tortured and killed, the Marine seems to be next on the list when he is rescued during a night raid by U.S. soldiers. They escape into the night, and the environmental lighting is amazing. Moonlight glimmered off the water, and the huts were burning, sending embers and smoke into the night sky.

A new weapon comes into the play in this game – the flamethrower. Wind can affect the fires and fuel, like nearby grass, can sustain the fire. But the fun doesn’t stop there. If a player is trapped in a hut, with enemies shooting at the front and only door, because of the destructibility of the environment, a player can shoot out the boards on the back or sides and escape that way.

Water has been given a makeover as well, adding buoyancy and refraction. If you dive underwater, and an enemy shoots into the water, you will see bubble tracers, as well as trajectory changes.

The game will build on the multiplayer foundation of CoD 4, presenting a positive infantry experience. In addition to the unlockables and kill streaks, players will also get credit for squad interaction, and the spawning system has been revamped using a Squad Influencer System – essentially it works to judge dangers of a spawn point (like camping) and will respawn players near their squad leader and squad members, not halfway across the map. Vehicles will have their own areas and there will even be vehicle deathmatches. But the biggest addition to the multiplayer is the co-operative missions in which a player can team with another in split screen or through online connections. There will be co-operative-specific challenges that will reward players with perks and upgrades available in multiplayer modes.

In addition to the campaign in the Pacific Theatre of war, there will also be a European campaign centering on the Russians and the push to drive the Nazis back to Berlin.

There is little doubt that Call of Duty: World at War is a very visceral experience that aims to be the definitive World War II experience. While there was no opportunity to gets hands on the game during the Activision event, what was shown appears to indicate that Treyarch is on the right track.

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